Meet Aki Hirata Baker: Founder of MINKA Brooklyn
-MEET THE FOUNDER OF MINKA BROOKLYN-
I had the honor of meeting Aki, founder of MINKA Brooklyn, about a year ago. Since connecting with her, she has inspired me probably more than she knows. From being a badass mama to three beautiful children to using her spiritual gifts to help others feel more connected and to dig deeper, she's one gem of a human. Read more about Aki and her journey through spirituality, entrepreneurship, and navigating the balance between business and motherhood.
Q: Who are you in a nutshell?A: That’s a loaded question! Well, I like the quote that says, ‘I am not a human having spiritual experience, but I am a spiritual being having human experience’. I think I am a small yet integral part of the universe, since every existence is needed to create the web of this particular consciousness that we currently live in.
Q: What's your sign? How do you identify with it?A: I am a Cancer cusp Leo Sun and Sagittarius Rising. My moon is in Aries. It really started to make sense to me once I understood my rising sign - and how that created this internal conflict of being a ‘homebody’ and a ‘party girl’ at the same time! I am a walking conflict, I tell you.
Q: How did you come into your spirituality?A: Oh, the big S!! I feel like the current trend is to use the word ‘spirituality’ since the word religion is kind of a taboo. I think being a human is being a spirit in human form - so it’s not like we are looking for ‘spirituality’ outside of us, but it’s more about coming back home to it, if you know what I mean.
I grew up in Japan, and my family followed Shinto tradition, which believes everything has spirit. My need for something more spiritual led me to Christianity in my teens (funny, right? I was in Japan, so Christianity was more exotic), though my tendency of not liking group thinking led me out of that. After many years later, my Ayurvedic studies, followed by yoga teacher training at Integral Yoga Institute offered me a very different view on spirituality and life itself.
Fifteen years later, I am where I am now because of that - and I can tell you that spirituality is a very individual thing. It’s a relationship you have with the spirits that are within you as well as outside of you, because if you really dive into the whole scheme of things, we are all born out of One. That might sound like a cliche - and if you cannot believe that now, that's fine. But at least, you want to look at your spirituality as a living and breathing thing, and it should evolve with you as you change.
Q: What does 'healthy' mean to you?A: Feeling good in my body, mind, and spirit.
Q: What is an important thing in life that you feel the world could use more of?A: Love, and I don’t mean the romantic kind (romantic ones are fine, but not only that - is what I mean).
Q: How do you balance being a mom of 3, a business owner, while staying in tune with your own practices?A: My morning meditation practice definitely grounds me, and it is a foundation of my day. Aside from that, I just do what I can do - and do not worry about the rest. When I started to focus on doing what’s in front of me instead of other things, my life started to align itself; or maybe I just did not see how life works itself out prior to that because I was so busy focusing on trying so hard to control it. I also get reiki, energy healing, and acupuncture fairly regularly. Oh, and I sleep a lot!
Life + Business
Q: When did you know you wanted to own a business and more specifically a space? Did you own a business prior?A: I fell into it, really. When we decided to open the COMPOUND COWORK three years ago, I didn't know I would be good at holding space - but it makes total sense since I am a Cancer. We are good at making ‘home’, so I just started making home everywhere I go, hahaha.
I am such a project-based person, and I never had a ‘career’ per se. The longest thing I have done is be a mom! Aside from that, I have done many things - but there was one thing I notice that was important to me, which was ‘service’. I wholeheartedly enjoy making people feel comfortable and at home - so once I put all these things together, it was a natural progression to put all the things I love together to create a space, and that’s how MINKA Brooklyn was born.
Q: What struggles did you encounter when starting your own business?A: I do not run this business as some others might - there is no business plan, or any sort of plan really. Ever since we decided to open MINKA, things just started to align - as long as I was in a space of knowing that this is happening outside of me, not because of me, things just took care of itself. Of course, it takes a lot of work to stay in the mode of trust, but that seems to be the key to make things happen - at least for me.
Q: Any advice to anyone wanting to start their own business and perhaps owning a space one day?A: You have to love the work - because you will be working all the time ;). I also think owning a business is serving others - it’s about making lives of others better; so you want to make sure your heart is in the right place for that. I feel like no amount of money can equate the amount of work I do for the space, but it does not matter to me because money is not my number one motivation - and that being said, you want to have a financial cushion for the initial stage of your business!
Q: What does MINKA mean? Story behind the name?A: MINKA means ‘Home of the People’ in Japanese.
My aim was to have a space where anyone can feel comfortable and honored - so they can really focus on the work at hand, which is their healing. The wellness and healing world is quite Eurocentric, even when many of the services are originated in indigenous cultures. This made me want to create a space where diversity is one of the main focuses. It is important for me to have teachers, practitioners, and leaders from all backgrounds, so whoever walks into the space can feel that they are also represented within our space.
I also am a firm believer in social engagement. For me, spirituality is directly connected to social activism - when we evolve as human beings, we cannot help but to engage in the struggle of others; as we realize in the oneness of all beings, it just makes sense to care for extension of ourselves. So at MINKA brooklyn, we are extremely aware of what’s happening in the world around us, and how that affects us.
Q: What kind of people practice at MINKA?A: We have a super diverse crew, and I am very proud of that! We all seem to believe there is a force that’s beyond us (I guess this is called ‘spiritual’, right?), and we all want to grow as human beings. We are a cool bunch, lol!
Q: What services does MINKA offer?A: Everything! We are complicated, and it takes a multifaceted approach to get to the bottom of things. Here are just a few of our offerings: Acupuncture, Astrology, Breathwork, Flower Essence Therapy, Massage Therapy, Meditation, Reiki & Energy Healing, Soul Tattoo, Sound Healing, & Space Clearing & Feng Shui. See our full list of services here.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of what you do?A: I feel so happy when people walk into the space and say ‘I feel so at home here’, and I say ‘Mission accomplished!